Achieving Workplace Equity for the Trans Community: Gender Identity Discrimination Still an Issue for the Trans Population in Minnesota
The last decade has seen marked progress in the fight for transgender civil rights. The Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit tracking legislation affecting the LGBTQ community, gives Minnesota a 14.25/20.5 for Gender Identity Policy Tally (for more information see lgbtmap.org). This score situates Minnesota in the “high” protection category, alongside states like California, Washington, and New York. Most non-mid westerners would likely find this news surprising, as many people are probably unaware that Minneapolis was the first municipality in the country to pass protective legislation for trans residents, way back in 1975, before we’d ever even heard the word “transgender.” Despite this, trans Minnesotans continue to report high levels of employment discrimination.
Still a Problem in Minnesota
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) 2015 Transgender Survey indicates 26% of respondents from Minnesota who were employed or looking for work in the previous year, reported being fired, demoted, or precluded from employment due to their gender identity or expression.
What Does the Minnesota Department of Human Rights Have to Say?
In fact, employment charges continue to make up the largest proportion of complaints received by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR). During the second half of 2018, over half the complaints received by the agency were for employment discrimination. Employment discrimination has been the most prevalent category of MDHR charge year over year, with sex-based discrimination, which includes gender identity, often making up the largest proportion. Unfortunately, MDHR does not track how many complaints of gender identity-based employment discrimination it receives, but statistics show trans Minnesotans, just like trans folks around the country, face disproportionate levels of discrimination, such as being forced to present in the wrong gender and/or use segregated bathrooms that single out trans employees, in addition to being fired or demoted.
The EEOC has Stats of its Own
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for investigating violations of various employment-related federal laws, also lists sex-based discrimination as one of its most common charges, along with race and disability- each making up about 1/3 of charges annually. The EEOC does not break out its charges of sex-based discrimination by type, so we don’t know exactly how many charges of employment discrimination based on gender identity the EEOC receives each year, but preeminent LGBTQ civil rights organization Lambda Legal indicated in a 2015 statement to the EEOC that its organization receives approximately 1,000 calls, annually, to its helpline from trans folks experiencing discrimination and/or harassment at work. NCTE’s 2015 Transgender Survey revealed a staggering 30% of employed respondents reported some form of mistreatment at work, due to their gender identity or expression, in the year preceding the survey. Read the Executive Summary of the 2015 survey here: https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS-Executive-Summary-Dec17.pdf
Putting it All Together: What is the Solution?
Numerous studies highlight the extreme levels of discrimination experienced by the transgender community. In almost all aspects of life, transgender people have to negotiate hurdles non-trans folks would never even think to be concerned about- imagine having to out yourself every time you have to show ID because your name and/or gender marker on your identity documents don’t match your physical presentation.
Trans employees experiencing discrimination at work should keep a record of the dates and details of discriminatory incidents. Additionally, employees could raise an internal complaint with their employer or discuss other options with an attorney, including filing discrimination charges with the EEOC and/or MDHR.
Here at the law firm of Schaefer Halleen, we are committed to doing our part to help the community thrive, by employing trans-competent staff and participating in and sponsoring community events. If you’ve experienced discrimination at work and would like legal assistance, contact the skilled attorneys at Schaefer Halleen.